1.) Return of the Dead Eye: After sitting out Preseason Game 1, Brady will be getting the start tonight. All reports out of training camp are that he looks great; but how will the foot hold up in live action? With Matt Light unlikely to play, Nate Solder quickly becomes the most important player on the field. Solder played well last week, but can he protect the most valuable man in football against an aggressive Tampa D? God do I hope so.
2.) Chad Johnson's Debut: Hopefully watching Tom chuck bombs to him will help me hate him less. Hopefully.
3.) Mark Anderson and Andre Carter: All off-season, the most discussed aspect of the Patriots was their need for a pass rusher. What big name Free Agent would the sign - or what early round draft pick would they choose - to bolster last years' anemic pass rush? Well the answer so far has been these two unheralded free agent. Anderson (12 sacks as a rookie with Chicago in '06) showed flashes in Game 1, applying several QB pressures and displaying an array of moves. Can he follow up last weeks performance?
Carter missed the game vs. Jacksonville, but has supposedly had an excellent training camp. Can he bring this production come game time? Any upgrade over Tully Banta-Cain's "run straight and get blocked up field" move is welcomed.
4.) Mallett: Rookie had a great performance last week...against one of the worst Pass D's in the league. Can he repeat the effort and show consistency against a tougher opponent, on the road? Mallett has reportedly seen the majority of 2nd team reps in practice this week (over Hoyer) so expect to get another long look at him tonight. Keep and eye on the accuracy of his throws and how he reacts if/when the protection breaks down.
5.) Cornerback Battle: Butler and Wilhite made little case for a roster spot last week. Will either show any improvement this game? McCourty, Bodden and Arrington should all start, which is nice.
6.) Safties: The Pats spent the first half vs. Jax with Chung at Free Safety and Merriweather at Strong Safety; a reversal of their normal positions. The coaching staff appears unhappy with their current performance- evidenced by the fact that Sergio Brown saw first team reps during practice this week, and the Pats brought in veteran safety Darren Sharper for a tryout. Hopefully a return to health from James Sanders will sure up the back end of the D; but until then this is an area that needs watching.
7.) Young Bucs: 74 of the 90 players currently on their roster are age 25 or younger. Wow I feel old.
Jaaaaaassssh Freeman is one of the more exciting young QB's in the league. When Lagarrett Blount isn't busy punching people in the face he is a hell of a running back. Their D line consists of talented early draft picks from the past two years - youngsters Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, and possibly the biggest steal of the 2011 draft, Da'Quan Bowers. Stay away from Tom kids, it's only preseason.
8.) Tyrone Mckenzie: McKenzie was drafted by the Pats in the 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He missed his entire rookie season after tearing an ACL in training camp. Worked hard to recover from the injury, but lost in the numbers game at ILB last preseason to Mayo, Spikes, Guyton and Dane Fletcher. Tampa released Barrett Ruud this year (the teams leading tackler for the past 4 seasons) and McKenzie is the prime candidate to take his place. Will he seize the opportunity for a starting role that he never would have gotten in New England?
*WR Taylor Price will miss the game (as well as Edelman and Tate) and a chance to repeat his strong performance. Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes are out, and there will be no debut from Ras-I, Fat Albert or Rookie RB Shane Vareen.
*Can players repeat strong performances from Week 1? RB Stevan Ridley, LB Dane Fletcher, DL Kyle Love, OT Steve Maneri and TE Will Yeatman are a few names that come to mind.